In the world where more than a billion people own personal vehicles, driving is a pretty complex activity that requires acute attention, concentration and an ability to maintain focus for long periods of time. One look off the road can have tragic consequences. And though distractions are fundamentally unavoidable, some of them pose more threat than others, significantly increasing the risk of getting in an accident.
While something as minor as getting a phone call or drinking your morning espresso behind the wheel might be dangerous, smoking takes the problem even further by chemically influencing your body and reaction. That is not to mention possible fire hazards and harm caused to potential passengers by secondhand smoke. Still, in spite of the clear dangers, smoking behind the wheel is not a rare occurrence at all, which raises a natural question of why people continue to engage in such a risky behavior.
How does smoking affect your body?
It is widely known that smoking is bad for your health. A regular combustible cigarette contains nicotine that causes addiction, along with many other chemicals and compounds that contribute to the development of various respiratory diseases including cancer and asthma. However, while e-cigs with a variety of e liquid recipes are a more questionable issue, there is no doubt that smoking is overall harmful.
A study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information examined the data from four experiments designed to test the effects of smoking on verbal memory and attention. The test subjects smoked cigarettes containing different levels of nicotine and completed a series of tests afterward. The study revealed that the smokers’ performance on immediate- and delayed-recall tests improved for the high-nicotine cigarettes while staying relatively the same as it was prior to smoking for the low-nicotine cigarettes. Also, light and heavy smokers displayed different levels of effects that smoking had on their heart rate but not on recall.
Another study by NCBI concluded that participants who received nicotine responded faster in an eye movement task, associated with attention, state of alertness and reaction time.
Is it illegal to smoke and drive?
Smoking behind the wheel is only illegal if an individual who’s younger than 18 years old is present in the car. Sussex police state that smoking as such is not prohibited, however, you might still commit an offense if you are not in full control of your vehicle, or if the police decide that the act is distracting and hence potentially dangerous. In the UK, punishments for careless driving may include penalty points, losing your license and fines up to £2,500.
Is vaping illegal?
Neither e-cigarettes nor vapes are illegal to use while driving and fall under the same laws as smoking. Sergeant Carl Knapp of the Sussex Road Policing Unit noted that although vaping is not prohibited, the exhaled vapor may momentarily blind drivers and lead to a serious crash, so it is inadvisable to vape and drive at the same time. It could also be dangerous and distracting to change your vape liquid or e-cig juice on the move, keep your hand off the wheel or turn your head to the side if you exhale out of an open car window.
Is vaping better than smoking while driving?
Although occupying your mind with anything other than the road in front of you while driving is a fairly poor idea, vaping might be a better alternative to smoking.
General benefits of vaping
The main difference between vaping and smoking is the absence of tar, benzene, carbon monoxide and other chemicals that cause various medical conditions in the vapor that you inhale. It makes vaping virtually harmless to bystanders since nicotine is only ingested by the smoker, and other nasty substances aren’t floating around. The steam is produced by heating an e-liquid and can be nicotine-free. Also, vapes don’t have a characteristic smell of cigarettes, and the variety of vape juice flavors is truly vast.
Vaping in a car
In addition to having many personal health benefits, vaping is also safe for the environment and people surrounding the users of e-cigarettes. While there is still a possibility of certain vape flavors being unpleasant for your passengers, this is a much lesser evil than breathing toxic cigarette smoke.
Besides, vapes run on rechargeable batteries and don’t need to contact fire to function. While there are risks associated with battery-powered devices, dropping a vape onto your lap would certainly be less dramatic and damaging than dropping a lit cigarette in a moving vehicle.
No one is immune to accidents, but it is possible to reduce the risks by following a few simple tips for vaping inside a moving car.
- Don’t let the vapor obscure your vision and the view of the road. Instead of letting the clouds linger, blow the vapor out of an open window.
- Make sure your passengers and comfortable with you vaping next to them and respect their boundaries in case they’re not. Also, never vape with minors in the car.
- Don’t swap batteries, change vape tanks or adjust the settings on your device on the move. Get off the road and stop if you need to do anything other than simply turning your vape off or on.
The bottom line
Smoking and vaping are distracting activities that might lead to car accidents. Cigarette smoke or steam from a vaporizer that obscure vision, letting go of the wheel at the wrong moment or simply turning your head to exhale and taking your eyes off the road can result in car crashes and even fatalities.
Nearly 1.3 million people worldwide die in car accidents each year; whether from flying taxis or other reasons. This shocking number cannot be reduced until people realize that driving should not be taken lightly, and accept the fact that they are responsible not only for themselves but their passengers and other road users as well. And while lighting a cigarette in the car may be more convenient than stopping for a smoke every time you need it, several lost minutes are a negligible price to pay for numerous saved lives.
About the Author
Thanush Poulsen is a Danish blogger who is deeply concerned about the problems of the modern society trying to find the possible ways out and raise the public awareness of them.